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Pembrolizumab for Advanced Hepatocellular Carcinoma – second line onwards


Cancer and Palliative Care

March 2018

Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of liver cancer. This type of cancer develops from the main liver cells, called hepatocytes. Treatment and survival depends on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed. HCC is more common in people who have long‐term damage to the liver (cirrhosis) due to a viral infection or excessive alcohol intake. It is also more likely to develop in men than in women and it becomes more common as people get older. The advanced stage of HCC occurs when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body and there often are limited curative treatment options at this stage.
Pembrolizumab is a type of immunotherapy that stimulates the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. Pembrolizumab targets and blocks a protein called PD‐L1 on the surface of certain immune cells called T‐cells. Blocking the PD‐L1 protein allows the T‐cells to find and kill the cancer cells. It is administered as a drip into a vein every three weeks for up to 35 cycles. If approved, the addition of pembrolizumab to other standard treatments will offer an alternative treatment option for patients with advanced HCC that have received previous chemotherapy. This treatment option has the potential to improve survival in this patient group.

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